This is the number one question that I get asked and I understand why. Child Care is expensive and solopreneur income can be unpredictable. It’s a big commitment and often a chicken and the egg situation. You need dedicated time to bring in clients, but you need clients to pay for that dedicated time. So, can you carve out that dedicated time without paying for a babysitter?
I say yes, but it takes a lot of preparation, creativity, and resilience. As John Burroughs said, “For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice.” Here’s my tips for preparing you, your baby, and your business for getting some work done while you’re the full time caregiver.
Start that schedule from the beginning.
A lot of folks will tell you that you can’t put a little baby on a schedule. I say hogwash. It is tricky and I’m going to use the word “Schedule” very loosely, but it is possible to get started right away.
Getting your baby on a solid sleep schedule is the number one resource that will allow you to work from home without paying for a sitter. (So you’re going to hear me talk a lot about it.)
Here’s what you can do -
- During that first month or so babies are going to sleep on their own timeline. Use that time to observe them. You’ll start to see a natural pattern forming for when they wake up, when they fall asleep for first nap, wake up, second nap, etc. Take cues from your baby and notice when they are getting tired. Hint - when they rub their eyes, they are already tired. Look for moments of quiet and staring off into space.
- Use a sleep routine for every single time that you put them down to sleep. Ours includes change diaper, book, milk, song, sleepsack, bed. We’ve been doing this same routine three times a day for over 180 days. Now when we sing his “Nighty Night” song he instantly rubs his eyes (he knows it’s time for sleep).
- Continue these activities and you’ll start to find a “schedule” that works for you guys. It’s an evolving process and can take a while to solidify, but it can be done. Be patient, be observant, and be consistent and your baby will start sleeping during set times during the day.
Find time when you know you can be 100% focused on your business.
Without a babysitter, this is likely early morning and/or evening when your partner is home. I use this time for Discovery calls with new or prospective clients and uninterrupted blocks of time to do any deep brain work. Especially in the beginning, I found I was too distracted during nap time because there was always the chance he’d wake up. Now at 6 months I’m more confident that he’ll be asleep for his morning and afternoon nap and I’m scheduling more things during these times.
Get Out of the House or Get Noise Cancelling Headphones
It can be really hard to switch gears from caregiver to business owner. With time, the switch will feel more natural and you’ll be able to go back and forth with ease. But in the beginning, I recommend taking you and your work out of the house for a few hours (it could be in the evening or on weekends) or putting on noise-cancelling headphones. This way your partner is 100% in charge of kiddo and you can 100% focus on work. These blocks of time are crucial to getting back into your work.
Find a neighbor kid.
I know, this post is about working without a sitter, but this is a little different. If you have a young neighbor (10 -12 years old), you can have them come over as a “Mother’s Helper”. You’re still in the house and available if anything comes up, but for an hour or two they are in charge of the baby. You can usually get away with paying a young neighbor around $5 an hour so this ends up being an inexpensive option to get a few more hours of focused time. And as a added bonus, you are grooming your neighbor to be your date night sitter in a few years.
Modify Your Business Offerings
Take a look at your business and the services that you offer. If these services require you to be on-call or available during the traditional 9-5 day then think about modifying these offerings. Try creating packages that allow you to complete the work on your own timeline. This way you’re available to your baby when he/she needs you and you can work around his or her schedule without panicking on the days that the schedule doesn’t work perfectly.
Very few days are going to go exactly as you planned. It is a lot of work to care for a child full time and try to run your business. Know that your plans will often go awry. Build enough time into your projects to account for many delays (your turnaround time will be longer than it used to be). Adjust your client’s expectations so they understand that you are no longer available 24/7 and response times may be longer. And take any to-do list you’ve made for the day and cut it in ½ or maybe even in thirds. In fact, be proud of yourself if you accomplish just one important thing each day.
This will be a different life from your old one. And at some point, your business will grow to a certain level or your child will get to an age where this setup isn’t mangeable anymore. As soon as you can afford it, I recommend adding some additional childcare into the mix and scaling that up as your needs change. But in the beginning, it is absolutely possible to work at home with a baby and no childcare.